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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Russell Athletic Bowl is played in the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, which also hosts the Capital One Bowl. The Russell Athletic Bowl is a matchup between a Big East team (or Notre Dame) and an ACC team.
The stadium itself was built in 1936, with the last seating addition being added in 1989 to bring official capacity to 65,438. However, they often add temporary bleachers in the north end zone so game attendance figures can be over 70,000 fans.
The stadium is scheduled to undergo a $175 million renovation, but those plans have been delayed due to funding issues with the City of Orlando. The renovation delay is a real shame because the stadium has never been renovated and upgrades are sorely needed.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Since the stadium is older, it is not built to have all of the latest concessions. You will find stands built around the stadium structure to try and offer as many food items as possible, but it physically can't match up to the modern stadiums.
You will find all of the normal food options such as popcorn and hot dogs, but I didn't find any truly unique items.
For beverages, you can enjoy a nice cold beer or your favorite soda.
The atmosphere was electric all night long. Both Notre Dame and Florida State fans showed up in full force to cheer on their teams. Even though the game wasn't the most exciting, the crowd was loud all night.
The entertainment was great, with each band getting to play some. Also, the pre-game ceremony with some members of the military parachuting in was really nice.
To be completely honest, the stadium is located in one of the worst areas of Orlando. It is not the kind of place where you want to get lost or walk alone at night. In fact, a few years ago when I visited for the Capital One Bowl, I actually got lost driving just three blocks from the stadium and witnessed a drug deal the night before the game.
With that said, on game day, the area is so populated with people that there is not much concern about crime. Since you can't just pick up the stadium and move it, I am hopeful that the planned renovations will help clean up the area as the rendered drawings I have seen look amazing.
I have been to this stadium twice, and both times the fans were great. Welcoming tailgates, helping me carry items to the stadium, and other friendly gestures.
During the game, everything is great outside of a few fights that seem common at bowl games. I thought the crowd this year was one of the loudest I witnessed at an open-air sporting event.
You would think having the interstate ramp just a few hundred feet from the stadium would be good for traffic flow. Unfortunately, Interstate 4 is basically a multi-mile parking lot every time there is a big event in Orlando.
The parking is almost always sold out well in advance and is very limited around the stadium. If parking near the stadium in a non-stadium lot, you have to be careful to watch for parking scams where they "sell" you parking in a lot, only to learn that the seller doesn't own the lot and you get towed while at the game.
It is much smarter and easier to park at the Fairgrounds for $10 and take the free shuttle to and from the stadium.
Inside, the bathrooms are older but functional. You will find moving around to be difficult due to the design and the added food booths. If your seats are up high, plan on staying there for the whole game because getting to and from your seat can be quite a challenge.
The Russell Athletic Bowl has great entertainment, usually has a good matchup and tickets start around $72, which is decent for a good bowl game. My only knock is that the 2011 game was the first ever sellout, so be on the lookout for cheaper seats available if you know where to look.
The Russell Athletic Bowl has the best social media of any bowl game. Funny, a bit snarky and well worth a follow on twitter- @ChampsSportsBwl.
The second point is for the well informed staff. They were able to answer just about every question I threw at them, and trust me I ask some off-the-wall stuff at times.
Third point is for finally getting a new synthetic field surface, AstroTurf Game Day Grass 3D. It made the game play much better than in the past and it cleaned up easy to paint the proper team names in the end zones.
Final point is for the pre-game parachuting to bring in the game ball. While it didn't quite work right due to a malfunction, the idea to have "helmet cam" on one of the paratrooper and broadcast it on the replay board was an excellent idea.
While the stadium is not on the nicest street and it isn't modern by any definition, if you like to enjoy yourself and see a quality college football game, it is hard to go wrong by visiting the Russell Athletic Bowl. I enjoyed myself and am looking forward to going back after the renovations are complete.
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